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Two new Arctic and offshore patrol ships named in honour of Canadian naval heroes

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HALIFAX — Two of Canada’s new Arctic and offshore patrol ships were formally named on Sunday in a move intended to preserve the stories of two of the country’s naval heroes during the Second World War.
Bottles of Nova Scotian wine were broken over the bows of the HMCS Margaret Brooke and HMCS Max Bernays during a ceremony on the Halifax waterfront, acknowledging their construction at the Halifax Shipyard.

“These have been built by Nova Scotians for Canadians,” Nova Scotia Premier Tim Houston told the crowd.

The ritual of naming a ship dates back centuries and is believed to bring good luck and safe travel to the vessel and its crew.

Both ships are part of a fleet of six Arctic and offshore patrol ships, referred to as AOPS, being delivered to the Royal Canadian Navy under the National Shipbuilding Strategy. The ice-capable ships are more than 100 metres long.

Kevin Mooney, president of Halifax Shipbuilding, said despite the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic and global supply chain problems, crews at the Irving-owned yard have both persevered and improved.

“We delivered Margaret Brooke last July with 37 per cent fewer production hours than the first AOPS, Harry DeWolf,” he said. “We will deliver a new AOPS each year to the Canadian Navy until 2025, and then two more to the Coast Guard in the following years.”

Filomena Tassi, federal minister of Public Services and Procurement, said she was impressed by her tour of the shipyard.

“I’m in awe when I come down and stand before these ships and think that they are made by Canadian hands. The innovation, the dedication, the commitment to deliver this. It is truly awesome,” she said.

Margaret Brooke enrolled as a nursing sister dietician in 1942 and rose to the rank of lieutenant-commander during her 20-year naval career.

In October 1942 off the coast of Newfoundland, the ferry SS Caribou was sunk by a German submarine, and while fighting for her own survival, Brooke did everything possible to save the life of a colleague and friend.

Both women clung to ropes on a capsized lifeboat.

Despite Brooke’s heroic efforts, her friend succumbed to the frigid water.

Lt.-Cmdr Brooke was named a Member of the Order of the British Empire.

Max Bernays was an acting chief petty officer in August 1942 and was the coxswain aboard HMCS Assiniboine.

During a fierce battle with a German submarine, the Assiniboine maneuvered in and out of fog attempting to ram and sink the enemy vessel.

Both vessels were firing high explosive shells at close range, resulting in a fire that engulfed the ship’s bridge and wheelhouse.

Bernays ordered two junior sailors to get clear, leaving him alone at the helm and trapped by the blaze.

Despite machine-gun and cannon fire, smoke and flames, Bernays executed the helm orders and dispatched over 130 telegraph orders to the engine room.

Bernays was able to ram the submarine and sink it.

He was awarded the distinguished Conspicuous Gallantry Medal by the British Admiralty, making him just one of two members of the Royal Canadian Navy to receive the honour during the Second World War.

The HMCS Margaret Brooke was delivered to the navy last summer, while the HMCS Max Bernays will be delivered this fall.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 29, 2022.

— By Kevin Bissett in Fredericton.

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conflict

Canada donating four Leopard battle tanks to Ukraine

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Ottawa – Defence Minister Anita Anand says Canada will send four of its German-made Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine “in the coming weeks.”

Anand announced the move this afternoon, making Canada the latest country to promise the heavy weapons to Ukraine.

Canada is also providing trainers, spare parts and ammunition, while Anand left open the possibility of sending more Leopards in the future.

Ukraine has implored Western allies to send such weapons for weeks as its forces struggle to make gains against Russia.

But Canada was unable to respond until Germany agreed on Wednesday that countries could re-export their Leopards.

The Leopards that Canada is donating are among the 112 currently owned by the Canadian Army, which includes 82 designed specifically for combat.

Retired military officers had warned that any donation would have an impact on the Army and will need to be replaced, given that the fleet is already stretched thin.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 26, 2023.

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Pressure builds for Canada to send tanks to Ukraine after Germany gives OK

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By Lee Berthiaume in Ottawa

Pressure is building for Canada to send some of its Leopard 2 battle tanks to Ukraine after Germany decided to provide the heavy weapons and allow other countries to do the same.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz announced his government’s decision on Wednesday following weeks of hesitation that created impatience among his country’s allies, saying Berlin will send 14 of its Leopard 2A6 tanks.

Scholz’s announcement came shortly before U.S. President Joe Biden revealed plans to send 31 M1 Abrams tanks to Ukraine, opening a potential floodgate following weeks of pleas by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

The goal is for Germany and its allies to provide Ukraine with 88 of the German-made Leopards, which would make up two battalions, and work alongside the U.S.-made Abrams in launching counteroffensives against Russian forces.

Yet while Poland has already promised to send Leopards if Germany agreed, and other European nations such as Finland and Spain have indicated a willingness to do the same, Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was more circumspect on Wednesday.

“Canada has stepped up significantly and without hesitation to support the Ukrainian people, and Ukraine itself,” he said at a news conference marking the end of a three-day cabinet retreat in Hamilton.

“We will continue to be there to give whatever support we can to Ukraine. I won’t be making an announcement today. But I can tell you we are looking very, very closely at what more we can do to support Ukraine.”

The Canadian Armed Forces has 112 Leopard 2s in its inventory in a number of different variations. Those include 82 designed for combat and 30 that are used for engineering purposes and recovering disabled vehicles.

Retired lieutenant-general and former Canadian Army commander Jean-Marc Lanthier said in an interview that any donation will almost certainly need to balance the needs and benefits to Ukraine against the potential impact on Canada’s military.

“Getting rid of any tanks — because we have so few, and so few that are actively working — would have an immediate impact on the level of readiness of the Army,” said Lanthier, who served as an armoured officer.

“Is that something that should stop us from sending tanks? I think we have a moral responsibility in terms of the immediacy of the requirements of the Ukrainian Armed Forces and the Ukrainian people. They are fighting a war. We are not.”

Canada bought its Leopards from Germany during the war in Afghanistan. They are notionally divided into squadrons of 19 tanks each, with two squadrons in Edmonton and a third at CFB Gagetown, N.B. Most of the rest are at the armoured training school in Gagetown.

“And normally you keep a bunch of them at a depot ready to be deployed, but that’s not something we’re doing necessarily because we don’t have the numbers,” said Lanthier.

Adding to the pressure is the fact only about half of Canada’s Leopards are operational on any given day due to maintenance and repair requirements for the surprisingly complex vehicles, he added.

Department of National Defence spokesman Andrew McKelvey would not comment Wednesday on what percentage of the military’s Leopard 2s are currently operational, and how many are out of service for maintenance and other reasons.

“Tank maintenance is similar to aircraft maintenance, and the status of the fleet at any given moment depends on a comprehensive maintenance, repair, and overhaul schedule, which is tied to specific requirements for training or operational employment,” he said.

“For operational security reasons we cannot specify how many Leopard 2s are being maintained at any given time or give indication of their maintenance schedule.”

The question facing the government will ultimately be whether the benefit of sending tanks to Ukraine outweighs the impact on the military, Lanthier said. If it does, another question will be whether those tanks would be replaced — and if so, how quickly.

“If we deem that we want to retain that capability that tanks give us in terms of a modern, battle-capable army, we need tanks,” he said. “If we accept that, then anything we give has to be replaced.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 25, 2023.

⁠ — With files from The Associated Press.

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